When I am in social situations I tend to feel insecure. I would like to be able to chat freely like I see others doing.
I do try to start conversations, but I feel so insecure and self-conscious that whatever I say comes out stilted and artificial. After a short while the conversation tends to dry up.
How can I communicate better socially?
I receive a lot of questions on this kind of topic. I’m sure that all of us at some time have felt uncomfortable in some situations. I know that myself I often avoid social situations. It’s not that I don’t like people or I’m not interested in people. I love to know how people work… what their hopes and fears are and why they do what they do.
However most social situations are constructed to only cover superficial talk. Any topic too personal… too controversial… or too risky is by custom – as I understand it anyway – supposed to be avoided. So there is a lot of talking, but little said.
We end up connecting through social masks. Portraying an image we want the other to hold of us. Therefore we all end up with a false impression of how other people really feel.
I think it is the fact that we know there is some expected social etiquette, but that we are just not sure what it is, that makes us feel awkward. Like the first day of a new job we don’t know anyone, the culture of the company or all the other stuff that helps us to fit in. So we feel self-conscious and awkward.
Of course there are some people who excel in such situations. That’s where their talents lie. But even so, put them in certain situations and they will feel just as awkward.
On the superficial level the problem is not knowing what to say. Since the same situation isn’t a problem when you are relaxed with people you know… the problem must be a lack of confidence in your ability to fit in to that situation.
You are afraid that you may show yourself up and in some way be rejected.
Here’s how you solve this at the practical level.
Confidence is something that comes with practice. When we do something new… or something that we are out of practice in… it doesn’t feel natural and it takes a little while to get into the swing of it.
Our brain works by a neuro-transmitter kind of jumping from one neuron to another. This is how thoughts are created. Most of the time we do things that we’ve done a thousand times before. Driving a car… washing up… flicking on the TV and so on. We’ve done these so often that the brain has a well developed neural pathway.
We feel confident that we will succeed in these tasks. We’ve done them so many times that we know them inside out. When we feel like this we just operate on auto-pilot and so our attention can drift.
In social situations this enables your attention to be on the conversation and so you naturally have something to say.
What’s happening though, is that your shyness is inhibiting you from talking naturally. This is stunting your neural pathway. It’s as if there is an obstacle stopping you from going past a certain point. As a result you don’t get enough practice in talking to make it automatic. It still seems new… so your attention is focused on the task… and therefore you don’t have enough mental energy to fully be in the conversation.
The solution then is to gain lots and lots of practice in talking to new people.
However you are in a Catch 22 situation because every time you are in the situation you freeze, which just makes it harder for next time.
There is a way around this. As far as your brain is concerned, there is no difference between what you imagine and what you do. So you can have imaginary conversations over and over again with various new people.
Picture all kinds of social environments where you confidently express yourself freely. Practice… practice… and more practice.
In time you will literally train your mind until it works on auto-pilot. Then your attention is free to follow the conversation and you’ll have something to say.
However my philosophy is that when you solve a problem on the superficial level… it will probably reoccur sooner or later in another form. So here’s what I think is really causing this.
That you used the word insecure describes the problem perfectly. We all have some kind of answer to the question of what life is all about.
I think most people’s view of life is of them as being placed in a cosmic Doll’s House. In the sense that they think of the world as being solid, unchanging and unaffected by them.
Therefore they feel small, weak and insignificant, by comparison. If life doesn’t go so well… they begin to wonder if they have been put in the wrong room… if they don’t fit in.
Hence they feel insecure, because they don’t feel as if they belong there. They don’t feel an organic part of it.
Yet the laws of physics tell us that every action by you will affect the whole of the planet. If the flap of a butterfly’s wing can create change halfway across the world… what changes must you be causing?
You aren’t in the wrong place… you are where you’re meant to be. And the world is exactly however you see it… as a result of how you and the other six billion individuals living in it are thinking. If you change… the world will change in response to you.
With this kind of philosophy that has you as an integral part of the world, you feel more integrated in and so the question of insecurity becomes far less likely.